Legal wranglings around Leatherman Terminal to be reviewed

Engineering firm claims it lost a six-figure contract due to the SPA's actions; SPA suing the firm for design flaws.

The SPA alleges that S&ME failed to properly conduct soil surveys.   File photo

The latest charges in the ongoing saga of the Hugh K. Leatherman Sr. Terminal in North Charleston include Raleigh-based engineering firm S&ME Inc.'s claim that the State Ports Authority (SPA) has banned it from doing work at the terminal.

The change in the SPA's policies forced the cancellation of a six-figure contract.

S&ME was the subcontractor for engineer Moffatt & Nichol, a California-based firm. The engineering firm conducted the site preparation work and designed the containment structure that would support a new wharf.

The SPA alleges that S&ME failed to properly conduct soil surveys, which led to a flawed design that included excessive movement of the retaining wall. Work was halted and a new design was produced by Moffatt & Nichol. However, the second plan was similarly flawed. The SPA filed suit against the engineering firm and subcontractor due to the design flaws and construction delays. The port authority said its additional costs exceeded $35 million, plus the loss of income due to the six-year delay in opening the new terminal.

S&ME countersued last week, alleging that SPA changed its policies to prevent the project's main contractor, S.J. Hamill Construction, from hiring S&ME for any project that involved the maritime agency. Hamill had fired S&ME as a subcontractor.

Court documents revealed that S&ME claimed that SPA implemented a ban on the firm due to the previous lawsuit SPA had filed against S&ME and Moffatt & Nichol regarding the soil studies. The engineering firms have asked the court to dismiss the SPA's lawsuit as the statute of limitations has passed. That request will be considered next week.

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